Inspire. Unite. Build.

Loneliness – it’s the newest public health crisis. Organizations as disparate as The Wall Street Journal, NPR, The New York Times, Fortune, and the British government are raising awareness of this issue and taking action to combat loneliness and the threat it poses to our ongoing health. Some studies indicate that it may be the impetus for people who engage in mass violence.

We can all occasionally feel alone, and, perhaps, lonely. When we feel alone, we might wallow in the feeling, notice how everyone around seems to have connections and feel sorry for ourselves. When we feel lonely, it’s easy to imagine that we are the only person feeling that way. These studies provide evidence to the contrary – it’s an EPIDEMIC, on a grand enough scale, that the British government has created a “Minister of Loneliness.”

Creating Solutions

Naming something identifies the problem. What it doesn’t necessarily do is begin to define solutions. As a society, we have gotten good at identifying and admiring problems. We aren’t always as adept at creating and implementing solutions. Whether it’s the myriad potential options that exist, or what can feel like the overwhelming task of engaging in solutions, or the reluctance to take responsibility for something we believe to be someone else’s responsibility, we can freeze when it comes to taking the next step.

Moving to Action

It’s clear to me when it comes to problem-solving, including the loneliness epidemic, that we must move beyond navel gazing and blame and take action. If I am feeling alone, or lonely, I can reach out to others and invite them to join me. I must be resolved to do so, and I must move from resolution to action.

Inspire. Unite. Build.

And so it is with our theme for the year:

Inspire. Unite. Build.

Inspire action.

Unite people.

Build connections.

Inspire people.

Unite through shared values.

Build community.

Building community resonates as a way to mitigate loneliness, to engage in mutual problem-solving and to have some fun.

It’s the art of compromise. It’s the art of living in community.

A Future for Every Person

In Thank You for Being Late, journalist, author and Minnesotan Thomas Friedman notes:

“… every day going forward we’re going to be asked to dance in the hurricane, set off by the accelerations in the Market, Mother Nature, and Moore’s law.”

He goes on:

“There is only one way to thrive now, and it’s by finding and creating your own eye. The closest political analogue for the eye of a hurricane that I can think of is a healthy community. When people feel ‘protected, respected and connected’ in a healthy community, it generates enormous trust. When trust is in the room, people are much more adaptable, think long-term, [are] more inclined to collaborate and experiment [and are] open to new ideas and novel approaches.”

In days filled with uncertainty, divisive rhetoric and hate-filled rants, and attacks on people who need our support to be successful,

In days when there is more to do than there is time,

I keep asking God to send us what we need, and to give us discretion to recognize it when it comes. It’s a simple prayer, born out of necessity and an inability to articulate what all those things might be.

Let’s be inspired by what we have been given, unite to recognize the resources around us and build a sustainable and abundant future for EVERY person.

Please unite our community, and share your voice to help build new solutions.




About the Author

Sandi Gerdes

Sandi Gerdes, executive director of Laura Baker Services Association, has a 30-year history of leadership in the disabilities community. A longtime advocate for choice, Sandi has developed numerous innovative service programs tailored to the unique needs of the individuals the organization serves.